David Davis accuses EU of acting in bad faith over Brexit transition plans

LONDON — The EU was “unwise” to publish a document that said Brussels could suspend the U.K.’s single market benefits during the Brexit transition period, David Davis said Thursday, accusing the EU of failing to act in “good faith.”

In a sign of a cooling of relations between the U.K. and EU negotiating teams, Davis said Wednesday’s legal document setting out the EU’s terms for the transition period contained “discourteous language,” and branded it a “political document” not a legal one.

The U.K. also said on Thursday that it wanted to be “treated in the same way as EU member states” during the transition period.

Officials in London were blindsided by Wednesday’s demand from the EU, contained in a footnote to a new draft section of the transition agreement, that during the transition the EU should have “a mechanism” to “suspend certain benefits deriving for the U.K. from the participation in the internal market,” if a dispute were to arise and Brussels decided there was no time to refer the matter to the European Court of Justice.

U.K. negotiators were also disappointed, one official said, by segments of the paper that stated that “during the transition period, the parliament of the U.K. shall not be considered a national parliament” and the Bank of England “shall not be considered to be a national central bank.”

While legally this is merely restating the position that the U.K. will not be an EU member, it risks goading Brexiteer Conservative MPs on whose support Theresa May’s political authority depends, and is viewed as unhelpful, the official said.

In a TV clip sent to U.K. national broadcasters, Davis said: “I thought that document was hardly a legal document, it was a political document … I do not think it was in good faith to publish a document with frankly discourteous language, and actually implying that they could arbitrarily terminate in effect the implementation period. That’s not what the aim of this exercise is, it’s not in good faith, and we think it’s unwise to publish that.”

Davis added that meetings of May’s Brexit Cabinet sub-committee this week, where ministers have been debating the U.K.’s stance on the future relationship with the EU, had been “very constructive” with a “a lot of things resolved,” adding that May would say more on the subject “in due course.”

The U.K. Brexit negotiation coordinator, Oliver Robbins, will be in Brussels Friday to wrap up this week’s round of talks on the transition period and provide EU negotiators with an “update” on the U.K.’s position on the future relationship.

Davis later tweeted that negotiations on what the U.K. calls the implementation period were “proceeding well.”

He said the U.K. has “made clear that we need safeguards to protect our interests. My team stand ready to negotiate across the board. Quick progress is essential.”

In a new position paper published Thursday, the U.K. government also set out their belief that, during the transition, the U.K. should continue to be “treated in the same way as EU member states” with regards to agreements, such as trade deals, that the EU holds with third countries.

“This would be achieved by agreement of the parties to interpret relevant terms in these international agreements, such as ‘European Union’ or ‘EU Member State’, to include the U.K.,” the document states.

The document argues that this approach would “avoid the risk of disruption in the application of these agreements between the EU, U.K. and third countries.”

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